Friday, December 23, 2016

Highly Favored - Part 2

Friday, December 23, 2016
A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived.  She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth.  At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed.  Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me?  When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.  You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”  Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.  How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!  For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed.  For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.  He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him.  His mighty arm has done tremendous things!  He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.  He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble.  He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands.  He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful.  For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.”  Luke 1:39-55(NLT)
Perhaps both Elizabeth and her niece Mary naively misunderstood everything.  They certainly couldn’t forsee all the pain that was on their horizon.  Elizabeth’s child would be imprisoned and beheaded; Mary’s child….well, you know.
But, their misunderstanding was well-placed.  Elizabeth’s and Mary’s words recorded in this text are words of utmost faith in Jehovah.  It was like a flash mob, extemporaneously gathering and exploding with praise on that Judean hillside.  Elizabeth was filled with God’s Spirit and bubbled over with praise for God’s kindness in bringing about the fulfillment of the long-awaited promise of Messiah. 
Mary, also, is seized by the Spirit’s joy and her Magnificat (song of praise) proclaims that everything in life is about to be turned upside-down:
·       Those with reason to be proud will be humbled
·       Those proud because of their riches will end up at the soup kitchens
·       Those who pridefully occupy thrones will be powerless
This is the future about which Mary and Elizabeth prophesy.  Everything is turned on its ear, and God sets it all straight.  So what have Mary and Elizabeth missed here?  What is misunderstood?
C.S. Lewis called Mary’s song a terrible song, playing on the Latin “terribillis” which means dreadful, frightful, fearsome[ii].  It seems the birth of Jesus will fiercly shake the very foundations of society and change everything. 
Children will do that!  When our first child, Jennifer, came along we were so thrilled, and so very naïve about how life was going to be so perfect.  The pain of childbirth, it is said, fades into memory past, leaving the joy of relationship.  But, in truth, childbirth also obscures the pain of the future.  Scraped knees and assorted “boo-boos” aside, this dangerous world (particularly to children) is a labyrinth of trouble.  There are places like the Twin Towers, Columbine, and Sandy Hook!
Mary sang over her firstborn, a perfect child – future king; but she missed entirely the shadow which the cross cast across that manger!  But that is how it is when you serve God.  When, like Mary, you commit to being His slave – your life will never be the same again, predictable and comfortable.  There is no such thing as safe obedience. 
Mary and Elizabeth…powerless, little hope for a secure future…lives of dead ends.  And, suddenly….God!  That’s how it is when you’ve got something new swelling your insides.

For You Today

Sometimes that so-called dead end you face is the beginning of God’s highly-favored blessing!
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road…have a blessed day, and a most blessed and highly-favored Christmas celebration this weekend!

[i] Title image: Andrea del Sarto [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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